Though I do my best to not get caught up in conversations, which can lead to arguments, from time to time I inevitably find my way there. Less so than in years past, signifying my ability to learn new behaviors, … Continue reading
Where there is resistance is where there is the invitation for growth and expansion, to swim wide and free in the see of your spacious being. The places that rub up against us like the coarsest sandpaper, the doors we … Continue reading
This afternoon I find myself seeking distraction to avoid doing the work, putting thoughts into words, making sense of an oftentimes senseless existence in this weekly exercise of writing. This isn’t a new experience, I have been avoiding since I … Continue reading
There are many common misconceptions of yoga, one is that yoga is just exercise, another is that just by practicing yoga you are becoming more spiritual. As a yoga teacher I find I spend a bit of time in my classes trying to clear up these misconceptions and more, as well as explain the value of a spiritual practice that uses the physical one as a vehicle. Just to be clear here, from my understanding and background there is no right way or wrong way, only what serves. What serves however, changes, and the practice of yoga is deep enough and spacious enough to make room for all changes in the search for what serves. From the place of yoga as exercise to yoga as spiritual practice and everything in between there is value to be gained. How deep any seeker goes is up to them. With all that being said, there is an essential focus to better oneself by knowing the trappings of ignorance and the value of awareness. In the wake of ignorance is often hurt and suffering, therefore the more one pursues awareness the more one may experience peace and contentment.
Last week the grandfather to yoga in the western world, B.K.S. Iyengar transitioned from embodiment to whatever comes next. Had it not been for the many health ailments he suffered as a young person, which resulted in his pursuit of a life-long dedicated practice of yoga, the world of yoga as we in the western hemisphere now know it, would likely be as much a mystery to us as Unicorns.
Looking through his quintessential book Light on Yoga, it is clear to see that Mr. Iyengar was a masterful practitioner, however, before he was an adept in the physical asana, he was already a great yogi for not giving in to giving up on the possibility of a long life of radiant health. In his seeing an invitation given to him by health ailments so severe it would be easy to label them only misfortune, not only did he realize the possibility of a long and flexible life, his optimistic choice by proxy has enabled me, as well as millions, if not billions of others to live radiant healthy meaningful lives too.
The opposite of his choice, seeing the detours of our lives, the ailments, and the challenges as misfortunes and direct assaults to our personal happiness, is not taking the invitation to expand and grow in the face of the hardship. When a wider perspective is taken, one of optimism and confidence in ones capacity to traverse the sidesteps of the extreme ranges of being human while maintaining inner peace, we come to know not only our innate strength and grit, but also the value of being open to enjoying life however it appears in front of us. This openness is the spacious place where steady inner peace can always be maintained.
Successfully dancing the complicated steps of this waltz while sometimes tripping over our own feet and maintaining inner peace, first and foremost, requires the desire to do so. Starting with clear focused intentions, and a heart full of passion enables our capacity to pursue wellbeing and resonant harmony within and without no matter the shape of the adversity we are experiencing. When we only perceive love, joy, and health as being available to us in one way then we limit ourselves to the myriad of other ways contentment and harmony can walk through our doors, for in the only one-way perspective, there is only one door. It’s like playing that game as children where you put the correct shaped pegs into the holes of their corresponding shape. Some holes will never correspond with some pegs no matter how much we batter them with our little plastic hammers. Allowing the circumstances of our lives the opportunity to manifest into their most full form of serenity and joyfulness without forcing the world around us to be as we think it should be, is living with an unconditioned heart, practicing really good yoga, and leaving room to shine some light onto Unicorns.
If you have not thumbed through the pictures of Light On Yoga, I recommend it. I offer that there is no need to feel like you are less of a person if the asana demonstrated in the book appears to never seem attainable to you, truth is, one never knows what the future has in store, and as far as I understand being able to put your feet behind your head does not necessarily make you a better person. For myself, looking at his photos and remembering that his journey to that amazing expression of his being was a long and patient walk, reminds me that no matter the foundation we may start with, through passionate focused intention and dedicated practice, many, if not all obstacles can be surmounted.
In the wake of Mr. Iyengars departure I find myself in deep gratitude for the so-called misfortunes of the human experience. Reflecting on my own personal journey as well, I know, that were it not for my hardships, my illnesses, my personal dance through discontent to content, the contentment I experience in the spaciousness of this knowing perspective would not exist. Something would be there, but it would be less evolved in empathetic understanding, less capable of compassion, and less knowing of my resilience.
Truly, it’s just more fun to think it may be a Unicorn not a monster that shows up in that deep blue of the mysterious unknown.
In Love, Joy, and a never ending search for Unicorns,
Late last month another friend left this Earth. He was a man of many talents, much wisdom, and deep generosity. More than anything he was a man who truly lived his life fully, present in every moment.
Ed Morgan was husband to my dear friend Virginia Morgan, who I spend a great deal of time with at Shree Yoga Taos. Virginia and I began our yoga journey right around the same time nearly a decade ago with our dear teacher Suki. Over these past many years much in all of our lives has changed and we have, through our shared love of the practice, had a shared space of understanding through which we together have journeyed through these many changes in each of our lives. Suki and I joke that Virginia spends more time at Shree than either she or I, and in fact this may be true, as Virginia takes multiple classes a day, multiple days a week. Her devotion to her practice is inspiring in it’s depth and the reflection of its power in her life off the mat as well. Virginia is the spryest and youngest woman over 70 you may ever meet! She and Ed had been married for the last 30 plus years and their love was the kind of love that feels contagious. Being that Virginia loves yoga, over the past many years she has introduced most of her family to it, bringing sisters, children, and grand children to class with her. The one person who never came along to class was Ed. In all reality and truth, I cannot say I know Ed well because I didn’t, I know Virginia. However, I always felt I knew Ed through knowing my husband.
Oswald is also a man of many talents, much wisdom, deep generosity, and fully truly living his own beautiful life. He and I have such a wonderful time together, and though it may not always be easy between us, there is always love. Like Virginia and Ed, Oswald and I do not have the same interests or the same life pursuits. What we really share is our love for each other. Oswald is an outdoorsman, I like to go outside but for rest I prefer to be in a hot bath, or a cozy bed watching TV. Oswald loves to enjoy beer and his idea of a great breakfast is chicken fried steak, I prefer water these days and my ideal breakfast is a smoothie, or salad with an egg on top. Oswald likes to sleep till noon and I like to get up with, or before the sun. I not only like to do yoga, I have made it my lifestyle, and Oswald like Ed, prefers to stay home. Every once in a while though, Oswald does come to class, maybe it’s to humor me. After his last class, he told me he spent three quarters of it trying not to hate me. I shared with him that in my opinion that effort was good yoga, and I didn’t take it to heart. Oswald could care less about my spiritual practices and what makes good yoga on or off the mat. It’s not a conversation we have regularly, and we don’t have to because I know that just because Oswald doesn’t do spiritual like I do, does not mean that he does not do spiritual. I always imagined Ed and Virginia’s relationship to be similar. I imagined Ed saying, “Sure honey you go to yoga, Hell No I don’t want to go, I’m happy here making my art.”
Virginia asked me to share some words at the celebration of her husband Ed’s life over the weekend and being that I did not know him that well I was very honored by this request. Ed was, as I said a man of many talents, and in his last many decades he was an artist who used a dying medium. He engraved his pieces in metal plates and ran those plates through a gigantic press, pressing the art into a three dimensional image onto paper, he then embossed that art with silks and paint. His work was intricate, beautiful, detailed, and inspiring. Over the last couple years Ed became very sick, multiple forms of cancer moved into the domain of his body and eventually took from him the strength to engrave, slowing his art production to a very bear minimum. The last piece he was able to make was a hummingbird. He made many of these hummingbirds, and in his generous spirit gave these pieces to those who were a part of this hard chapter in his life.
Many moons ago, way back at the beginning of my relationship with Virginia, Suki, and Yoga, a book was put into my hands titled, “Stand Still Like The Hummingbird” by Henry Miller. It is a book of essays, which with similarity to yoga, my relationship with Oswald, Suki, Virginia and Ed, the World Cup Cafe, being ejected through a windshield at 15, and more, has made a marked impact on my life. It seemed to me the most valuable words I could share for Ed were from the final essay of the same title, Copyright 1962. I share Henry Millers paraphrased words with you here.
“It was on the jet from New York to San Francisco, at an altitude of thirty to forty thousand feet and never so much as a tremor, that all unwittingly I moved a few centimeters into the future. It was the comfort, the motionless motion, the unaccustomed perspective which doubtless threw me. We [man] were of the airs now, and they were filled with secret vibrations, with rays invisible and of power unimaginable. Yes, though only a few inched from the ground, so to speak, we were already verging on the carrefours of uncharted lanes of force, mysterious, magical force destined to alter not only our concepts of life but our very being. Out of our limitless universe and into the blue–the blue of the poet and dreamer, the blue of the mystics. Perhaps into the “upper partials” of some divine musical space.
We speak so glibly of the speed of light. What reality has if for us, this speed of light? Man’s struggle, ever since he ceased to grovel like the worm, has been to equate imagination with deed.
The universe has no armature, no weight, no substance. No purpose even. Neither is it dream and illusion. It is. The highest thought can neither add to it nor subtract from it. It grows, changes, responds to every need, every demand. It can exist with God or without. It is like a Mind which asks and answers its own questions.
Our needs…What is it that we need”? Certainly the more liberated one feels the less one needs. The sage demonstrates it daily, and the idiot too. Just to breathe, to know that you are alive, isn’t it marvelous?
[Man] has come to perceive that life is everywhere, in all things, at the edges of the universe as well as the center, and that nowhere is it absent, even in death. Why cling to it then with such stubbornness? What can be gained that is not already lost? Surrender! whispers the still small voice. Overboard with the baggage!
Grappling with the problem of speed–or is it the riddle of light?–it becomes more and more evident that there is no such thing as motion, or gravity, or heat, or light. Any more than there are atoms, molecules, protons, electrons. Only gods and devils, birth and death, ignorance and bliss. Nothing out there can possible be more mysterious, more enigmatic, than here within our own breasts. The corporeal is the phantasmal, the shadow realm. Mind is all, and its realm is reality. What is, defies knowing. With regard to the tiniest, the most insignificant morsel of this unsubstantial universe, thought wears itself out.
We are so accustomed to thinking in terms of death. Yet death promises nothing, solves nothing. Life does not begin in some remote, ideal world, some paradisiacal hereafter; it begins and ends here, wherever we are, in whatever circumstances. That is the meaning of life, that is it infinitely variable, inexhaustible, inextinguishable.
There is one comforting truth which is inescapable. Each time we run away from ourselves we are driven home again with greater force. Every effort to break out only pushes us further back into ourselves. It may be possible for man to reach the outer edges of the universe, but the importance of it will lie not in the getting there but in knowing more about ourselves. If we could pick up a stone in the field and truly grasp its nature, its essence, its being, so to speak, we would understand and know and appreciate the whole outer universe. We would not need to fling our bodies around like comets gone wild. Being fully here and of the moment, we would also be there, anywhere, and of all moments.
Thus I mused as we lumbered along at five hundred miles an hour. Tomorrow, a thousand an hour; the day after, five thousand. Multiply it by a zillion…what difference? Are we getting somewhere? Where? Is the body and mind of twentieth-century man geared to cope with all this abstract jazz? Ought we not first learn to fly backward too, or stand still in the air like a hummingbird?
Buddha gave us the eight-fold path. Jesus showed us the perfect life. Lao-Tzu rode off on a water buffalo, having condensed his vast and joyous wisdom into a few imperishable words. What they tried to convey to us, these luminaries, was that there is no need for all these laws of ours, these codes and conventions, these books of learning, these armies and navies, these rockets and spaceships, these thousand and one impedimenta which weigh us down, keep us apart, and bring us sickness and death. We need only to behave as brothers and sisters, follow our heart not our minds, play not work, create and not add invention upon invention.
I could not help thinking what this continent of ours was like before the white man took it over. It seemed to me that silence was a great factor in the world of the Indian, that he made no unnecessary stir, that he took the long way about rather than the short cut. Perhaps his mind was at rest. Certainly he had no need of stock exchanges, iron foundries, sheet and roller mills, Krupp works, laboratories, newspapers, mints, ammunition dumps. He had need of nothing it would seem, which to us is so indispensable. Not that his world was a Paradise. But it was never a senseless world. It had beauty, depth, great interludes of silence, and it vibrated with feeling.
From the clouds all that appeared to be left of this ancient world was the great barren stretch which begins with the Far West. The most beautiful, the most exciting part of the five-hour spectacle. Deserted though it was, an air of peace pervaded it.
For a brief moment I had the impression that I was riding our of it, leaving it all behind, permanently.”
Ed Morgan was a brave man who lived the last year of his life in the honesty of the reality of death. He did not need to practice yoga, or claim a dharma to live a spiritual life. Looking at his art, his home, his family, his circle of friends, anyone can see the attentiveness and mindful awareness he gave to detail. I feel that the passage of Miller’s “Not that his world was a Paradise. But it was never a senseless world. It had beauty, depth great interludes of silence, and it vibrated with feeling.” Paraphrases Ed’s life so very sweetly. His life was a spiritual life, and the presence of that knowing is apparent in the feeling of the vibration he left behind. It was an honor to know, even if very little, such a beautiful human being.
I cannot imagine what it would feel like to lose my beloved, my best friend, as Virginia has. Yet, daily I witness her in this great transition and I am humbled by the power of surrender in her practice. I am inspired as I admire the courage she faces each day with. I continue to learn from her as I appreciate the example of deep spiritual practice she displays for me and all else in our community, on and off the yoga mat.
In witnessing Virginia through this journey of Ed’s I am reminded, to truly love someone for a lifetime is to prepare for the greatest surrender and heartbreak of all, as all we love will change, and each of these mortal bodies will meet their demise.
In this knowing I offer that while we are living, we live true to ourselves no matter the rules and regulations, codes and conventions. We love one another like brother and sister, sharing in generosity and appreciating the gifts of others, as we are each a unique piece the divine’s creation. May we live mindful lives, aware of the details of all we create, thoughts, relationships, and deeds.
May the vibration of an unconditioned heart be each of our spiritual legacy.
With deep admiration of a life well lived,
Relationship is not without complication, challenge, and difficulty, even in the most well attended to and mindful of our interactions. Being in relationship requires communicating, which can lead to misunderstanding, hurt feelings, and sometimes even the end of a relationship all together. As humans we communicate in more ways than just with our words, we use our bodies, our actions, our non-actions, the reputations of our past actions, the way we dress, the work we do, these things and more relate who we are to the world as well as what we intend to do while living, and where we place the value and meaning in our lives. Relationship is the place where who we perceive ourselves to be interacts with the world around us. We have relationship with people, animals, insects, and with inanimate objects like our favorite pair of shoes or our beds. Relationship is taking place when we touch a stone, enjoy the freshness of the air when it rains, and pump gas into our cars. The varying layers of relationship all share the commonality of the way each of us singularly participates in the animate world we live in.
Our participation stems from our perception of who we believe we are and what we believe we are doing here in this world we live in. The beliefs of our experience formulate over the course of our lifetime and the varying relationships we have during it. Beliefs are created in the simplest observations of the people around us as children and the relationship those adults have to their perceived concept of the world, to the complicated study and discernment of heavy and weighted discussions on the cosmology of life and the universe, the presence of a power greater than one’s own, and the unlimited nature of energy in its limited forms of existence in the manifest world.
In Sanskrit there is the word Shraddha which does not translate directly into English. This word roughly refers to the actions we take that are founded in sincerity and faith; the ways in which we relate to the world based on the beliefs we have about the world that rarely, if ever come into question. The practice of yoga asks the student to question their Shraddha, as does life and being in relationship, which all of us are until we lock ourselves into a cave not to be bothered.
Though I give my best effort to being a human of integrity who gives thought to a deed before action, and mindfulness to intention before participation, I have traversed the rough seas of conflict in relationship more times than I can count. It is not uncommon for my sister and I to come into misunderstandings as we rub up against the boundaries of our own beliefs of who we think the other should be and how we perceive ourselves to be in relationship to the other. Currently I am in a dispute with my brother that has us in a stalemate of no communication because the communication we were working with was unsuccessfully efficient enough to clear the misunderstanding and hurt between us. I have no shame in sharing my digressions as well as the truth that I have been known to be aggressive in my desire to be right in these personal conflicts as well as being the stubborn headed contrarian, sometimes even self righteous brat, who generated the misunderstandings to begin with. These truths about my behavior I have learned while in relationship with all of my closest people from my parents to my husband, sister, brother, business partner, and dearest friends who, having been on the receiving end of my sharp and angry tongue, have cumulatively reflected this more clear picture back to me.
Diving ever more deeply into the teachings of yoga and the desire to be a person who lives a life of peace and harmony in all of my relationships, I am required to be honest with myself about who I am, the role I play in these conflicts, (my Shraddha) the beliefs I have that allow the conflicts to persist, what I can surrender to bring more harmony into the relationship experiencing conflict, and most importantly how to do it all with love. In theory this all makes great sense and seems very straight forward however in practice, when the need arises for this quality of beingness, the circumstances surrounding the need are generally immersed in emotions that create heat as they are passionately tied to perceived beliefs of myself upon which my whole world rotates. Learning to communicate in the midst of my passionate emotions without unleashing the sharpness of my tongue which is only a defense mechanism of my ego afraid to let go of a belief that has allowed it to hold up its wall of an illusion of separateness, is one of the most challenging things I have done in this life to date. It truly does not come with ease for me. For this reason, I am impressed and enthralled when I have the opportunity to witness others communicate their perceptions of the circumstances of relationship that did not leave them feeling safe, honored, or respected without becoming defensive, angry, hurtful, and cold.
This week I had the great good fortune to be on the receiving end of a person I am in relationship with clearing the air of their perceived experience of a less than enjoyable experience with me in a way that was beautifully straight forward, without baggage, respectful, honest, clear, and then done. It was a wonderful example of the use of the four pillars of communication which I attempt to skillfully use myself when I need to communicate my perceived experience in relationship with someone who I feel has not treated me in a way that is safe, respectful, or honoring of my beingness.
The four pillars of communication are:
1. Is it true?
2. Is it necessary?
3. Is it timely?
4. Is it kind?
When using language as the means of communication to smooth out any roughness in relationship with other humans that are important to you, it is proposed that you ask yourself these four questions before initiating the conversation. If the subject matter that you wish to speak on is true to you, and it is necessary to speak about to create more harmony in a relationship, and you time the conversation in a way that the receiving participant will not feel ambushed and will be able to listen and hear you, and you then approach your truth with kindness, there is a higher likelihood that the air will be cleared, harmony will return to the relationship, and both parties will feel better for having participated in relationship with such excellent skillfulness in communication.
There are of course exceptions to this wonderful way of resolving conflict. Sometimes the other party is not ready to transition into a resolution of conflict, other times the conflict itself is rooted in deep betrayal that first must be forgiven by the offended party or the words received are merely hollow and carry no weight. In these cases, should the offended party in the relationship find the spaciousness to forgive the trespass and move into a shared space of conflict resolution, then not only are the words that are communicated by the offender attempting to relay a resolution to make room for a new state of being having a great need for honesty, the offended party will generally also look to other means of communication like the offenders current and past actions as well as their body language to validate the truthfulness of what is being offered. At times the digressions between people in relationship can be so painful to one, or the other, or both, that the relationship may perhaps never go back to the freely trusting state it was once in, however with willingness on both sides in congruence with focused attention to personal behaviors and beliefs, the relationship has the potential to evolve into one of even better boundaries, more respect, more love, and true harmony, more so than even seemed possible before.
On either side of a conversation seeking conflict resolution is an individual with their own perceived concept of the conflict and their own ideas of which direction they wish to see the relationship go. In the best of cases, like the incident in which I was confronted last week, the offender, this time being me, listens and responds with honesty and a offering to remedy the relationship, often an apology is the perfect ingredient. Other times the receiving party wishes only to be left alone, in which case patience, and the continuing pursuit of impeccable behavior in all other relationships may be the only remedy available in that moment. In any case, returning to the offering of love for self and the person(s) on the other side of the line of conflict generally generates the best feelings overall.
Having the courage to clear the air of a conflicted relationship in a quality manner can be very hard to do, even though, as it is with most things of value in this life, it is the hard jobs and the challenges that require the most of us that are most satisfying. In the face of adversity and conflict in our relationships with others, and most importantly in relationship with ourselves, may we utilize the tools that were given to us and continue to dare to be brave enough with our communication skills to try to smooth out the rough edges, willing enough with our spacious hearts to surrender the strong hold of our egos, and open enough in our incredible minds to expand into new boundaries of being, which may be better than anything we could have ever imagined.
Being in relationship with this animate and inanimate world is a wild ride, up, down, and every which way between. It is my wish to teach by example, to rise to the occasion and the invitation offered by the classroom of life with patience and loving kindness for myself and others, as I work my way toward owning the title of human being.
I’ll continue to do my best.
In deep gratitude to those who have been patient, forgiving, loving, and beautiful teachers while in relationship with me.
With love, always, in all ways, for giving, in joy,
When I was twenty I got my first dog, a beautiful blue-eyed Huskie mix. As a naïve twenty year old I presumed it would be easy to “own” a dog and that I would have excellent dog “ownership” skills. Reflecting back on my perspective at that time in my life and my perception of “ownership” says much to me about the resulting relationship I had with Otis. It was a young and naïve relationship that lacked the integrity of steadiness, regular quality time spent together, the presence of patience, and most of all trust. The relationship of “ownership” ended in abandonment when a few short months into our journey together I decided to leave the country for half a year. Lucky for him and despite my poor parenting skills Otis was harbored for a few years in the loving home of my father, from where he went to live with and is deeply loved by my brother Josh. From time to time I have the pleasure of hanging out with him and going for walks. I am honored in his company by his forgiveness, which he offers with no restraint and his unconditional love, which is clearly present despite my truest betrayal and trespass against him. From Otis I have learned a form of forgiveness and freedom that is spacious and bright like the blue of his soulful eyes.
In my mid twenties I thought perhaps I was ready to try again. My husband and I discussed getting a dog, we agreed that I was not a fit dog owner based on my passed experience however, he had had many growing up and was willing to be a teacher to me on the journey. The conversation was just that, a conversation, which never went past willingness to actually bringing a dog home. That was until a hot July afternoon when I received a phone call from my mother who had heard us discussing getting a dog, telling me her friend had found a puppy and I should come and check it out.
The puppy had been found in Ranchos very dehydrated, emaciated, and nearly dead. I took her out of her box and put her in my lap and I couldn’t understand how this sweet little puppy, that couldn’t walk, with a big injury on its head, could have ever wound up in her position. I looked into her big black eyes and I fell deeply in love.
“I’ll take her.” I told my mom’s friend. However, she wasn’t ready to go anywhere other than to the vet, where she went for the next three days.
That night when my husband got home, I told him about our new puppy that my mom’s friend found, that was nearly dead and was at the vet and would soon be coming home to us. Despite our previous conversations, my husband was not eager about adding this particular dog, whom he feared may have brain damage to our family. I remember being very upset with him for not having compassion at that moment, yet as I look back on his position I understand his perspective. A brain damaged dog is a hard companion to live with.
“And are we paying for the vet too?” He asked me, disappointed and dismayed.
“Yes.” I said. “And we are going to take her in and bring her back to life, if she will make it.”
“Well,” he told me “if she turns out to be brain damaged I reserve the right to take her to the pound.”
Reluctantly, I acquiesced to his ultimatum.
Not only did we manage to bring that sick and dying puppy back to life, we found a way to include her in our lives with steadiness, quality time, and patience. It took me years to learn to communicate well with her, and to be able to understand when she was letting me know what she needed and wanted. It took even more time for me to learn to trust her and allow her to be the dog that she is rather than the dog I think she should be. Now, six years later the three of us are still in relationship, daily continuing to learn, grow, and mostly trust.
These days I call her His dog, as they just love each other so much and have so much fun. Every day when he leaves the house and can’t take her with him, she whines pathetically at the door. I on the other hand never get that kind of attention from her when I leave the house as she happily continues to lay in our bed not blinking an eye at the thought of me leaving, which I think means I’m just not as much fun. However, it is me she gravitates toward to have her most important needs met, like food, and care when she does not feel well. I like to think that’s because she remembers that day when she was nearly dead like I do, and how deeply I wanted to see her survive. As for me, I continue to delight in the newness of our relationship every day. Daily she invites me to play more, take more time to just enjoy the delight of the moment, relish the sweetness of love first thing and not forget to relish it again at the end of the day. Most importantly she continues to teach me to trust without hesitation. Experiencing witnessing her ability to ask for what she needs and wants, and trust that she will receive what she needs and wants, has taught me how to trust in spirit with more willingness and conviction in all that I need and desire. The way I understand the lesson is that you or I, like my dear sweet Onyx, only have to ask, and then allow ourselves to know and trust that spirit will provide.
Like the wonderful song in Pinocchio, “Anything your heart desires, will come to you.”
Yesterday was the first full moon after the Summer Solstice and marked the celebration of Guru Purnima, a Hindu festival honoring ones greatest, most noble and valued teachers. The word Guru is a derivative of two words, Gu and Ru and has similar etymological roots to the Latin word Gravitas. Gu denotes darkness or ignorance while Ru signifies the bringing of the light, the remover of the darkness, the moving of ignorance into knowing. The Guru therefore, is that which brings us from the weight or the gravity of our ignorance into the lightness of our being and the expansiveness of our knowing, mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually as well. A Guru can be a person who’s company we enjoy with ease and whose teachings we willingly sit with to learn, as well as a person whom it is not easy to be with and through the friction or the gravitas of our relationship we come to know our own spaciousness more deeply. Gurus are not only people as nature too can be a teacher, as can art and music, as can our dreams or our pets.
Contemplating, honoring, and celebrating the many Gurus of my life yesterday filled my heart. As my husband and I returned home from dinner under the bright shining light of the full super moon I offered extra thanks for a most unlikely Guru in my life, the little black one who ran to the door with eyes full of deep and spacious love, so happy we had come home again to her. I now know I don’t “own” her at all.
With humble gratitude to all of my teachers, the furry four legged kind, the ones I choose, and the ones who propelled me through the cheese grater of life into the wide open planes of unconditional love, I bow and I welcome the next.
With Love, All Ways, For Giving, In Joy,
Our bodies are miraculous and beautiful transformative vessels that house all of the wondrous aspects of our being, all of which enable us to perceive and experience this magnificent thing we call life. When our bodies are healthy and experiencing comfort and ease it is common for one to take the vitality of their radiance for granted. It is when the body becomes injured or suffers in ill health that one may for the first time in their life begin to think of what it might feel like to be healthy, vital, and radiant under their skin. Many people spend their lives in discomfort and chronic pain.
I know from personal experience that chronic pain in the body can lead to a degradation of life on every level. Serious injury many years ago continues to be the source of chronic pain in my every day experience. In the beginning, after the initial injury I focused so determinately on living a normal life that I compartmentalized my pain. I told myself that if I gave it no power, it would have no power over me. This worked for many years until it didn’t work anymore. Over the last three years I have experienced more pain than I ever imagined possible, which when I think of my life experiences and the pain I have endured surprises me, especially in contrast to the original pain of the injury which was so excruciating I find it impossible to describe in words. The memory of that initial pain is almost nothing in contrast to the sensation of sustained chronic pain which brings with it many other variants of pain, and it is the compounded pain that becomes almost unbearable for me sometimes and truly unbearable for others leading to many unwanted outcomes of a life that could have been otherwise. The degradation of ones life can vary from the way one perceives oneself and the rolls one plays in all relationships they are having in their life, to intense emotional discomforts of releasing old identities of self and embracing or trying to embrace new concepts of self that are easily perceived by oneself as forever impaired, unhealthy, and different, disabled, or a burden. For myself, as the chronic pain steadily increased, my identity with strength dissolved, my perception of my ability to be a contributing member of society with ease dissolved, as well as my perception of my ability to be a contributing member of my family and an example of steadfast positivity and strength to those who were in the throws of life changing events. All of these perceptions of myself I had previously held to with an unwavering confidence and honor. Despite my belief that if I did not let the pain have power over me it would have no power, the truth was that I had not processed the pain in a healthy way, and by ignoring it I was refusing to give the source of the pain a respect which in turn would enable me to create a lifestyle that could embrace my authentic nature rather than run from it. The ignorance and lack of respect for the source of my pain precluded a course of decisions that inevitably led to an acute experience of chronic pain.
Through my journey of the last three years I have been demanded of my body to deal with my pain from a new vantage point. Responding to this demand I have allowed myself to perceive the source of my pain from a perspective that permits me to be free from who I think I should be, liberating me to be who I am. For me to experience less pain less of the time I have to actively pursue more rest, less physically taxing work, more yoga, more bodywork, more rest, good food, more rest, less cold weather, and of course, more rest. Truth is, I have in my life sustained a very real and very severe injury, and I walk around in this world every day with titanium reinforcing my spine. I am fortunate to have a very mobile and strong body even though I experience pain most of the time. The mobility and strength of my body can easily fool anyone, including myself, into thinking it is in perfect health, and it is, in fact, in perfect health, for a body which has been severely compromised and is now reinforced.
As I stated earlier, many people in this world walk around in chronic pain. Some of us know the source of our pain and choose to ignore it and others have ignored so much of themselves for so long that they are not even sure what the source of their pain is. The body, miraculous vessel that it is, is incredibly linked to all aspects of our being, from our mind and our emotions to our sensate body and our soul or light body. Sometimes the only way for any aspect of our being to communicate with our oftentimes stubborn and conditioned minds that something is out of alignment with our authentic nature is through pain and illness. The more we get to know ourselves, the more permission we give ourselves to be who we are in the presence of all else that is, the more opportunity we have to feel better more often.
It has been through the continued dedicated practice of yoga that I have had the great opportunity to unwrap the layers I call myself and daily get to know myself better. Through the dedicated practice on my mat as well as my devotion to the continued remembrance of the spaciousness of my spirit and the unconditional love that is ever-present in all things, I sometimes sweetly, and sometimes with great frustration, tears, and pain, discover the truth of who I am. A common thought in the practice of yoga is that it is necessary to eliminate ones ego. However, it is in aligning to the true self that enables integration of ones ego to support authentic behavior in ones life. When the ego is demanding we live up to the standards that others set for us, standards that lead us to ignore our truths, it is then that the ego needs to be addressed.
Pain, not only physical, but mental, and emotional as well, when seen as our higher-self communicating with us is a beautiful gift. Especially, if we choose to unwrap it in such a way that it enables us to embrace our own truths and authentic luminescent unique ways of being. As humans we have much in common yet we are all unique. It is our unique diversity that demands we each uncondition the beliefs we have of who we are supposed to be and embrace who we are, this is true acceptance and unconditional love.
Perhaps, like me, you too may experience a type of pain that may never truly dissipate. I hope this is not the case, if it is however, it is my wish that you may continue to discover many satisfying ways to manage it. In my experience I find that the most profound and beautiful way to manage my pain is with tender love and gentle acceptance of what it is and where it is sourced.
From a foundation of loving kindness it becomes far more easy to manage ones pain, to facilitate a lifestyle that enhances the quality of ones life, and to make choices that continue to value and accept oneself no matter the appearance of and feeling of ones outer package, which is in essence the miraculous body that houses ones beautiful heart and soul. Truly, fundamentally, to be alive is the greatest gift, and even some of the most tortured and ill bodies have housed the most happy and joyful human spirits of all time to set an example for those of us who might get caught up on the surface of things.
If you are breathing today you are loved and you are blessed.
If you are in great pain I encourage you to remember, this experience like all things will change, and you have the opportunity to perceive it however you choose. I encourage you to model your choice after Peter Pan, thinking happy thoughts, and asking for help finding your shadow if you need it.
With Love, In All Ways, Always For Giving, In Joy,
In the end of May 1999 I graduated from High School with intentions to set out and conquer the world. It was a typical adolescent understanding of the world as conquerable, coupled with an ignorant belief that the world would arrange itself to fit into me. Despite my delusions of grandeur I enrolled in University in Southern New Mexico where I lasted one semester before deciding Las Cruces, higher education, spending my days in classrooms that hummed under the heat of florescent lights, and the concept of academia, just wasn’t for me. Again, my adolescent hubris in alignment with my ignorance was calling the shots.
As I perceive that choice now, I can say it was a thoughtless step that took me from my dorm room back into my mother’s home where I found myself suffering from the only bout of insomnia I have ever had in my life. To fight off the insomnia I read voraciously, filling the sleepless nights with books, most memorably, the Dalai Lama’s Ethics For The New Millennium. I knew at the time, as I read Ethics For The New Millennium, it would be pivotal to the rest of my life. I also knew my life was definitely changing, I wasn’t sure how, but I was sure I would never be the same.
Weeks went by and I spun my wheels wondering how I was now going to conquer the world. News traveled to my best friends mom who owned a Preschool that I was back in town. She called me and told me that she needed a substitute teacher and I should come to the school and give it a shot. I remember being resistant, telling her I didn’t like kids and I wasn’t sure if I was the right person. Lucky for me Jill would not take no for an answer. She rejected my resistance with an intelligent and insightful response. “It’s not that you don’t like kids,” she said, “It’s just that you haven’t spent any time with them and you’re afraid of them. You can stop being afraid and get to know some. Besides, you might actually like it.” By this time Jill had been in the business of kids for more years than I had been alive and she knew what she was talking about. In the end I had nothing better to do and I knew that spinning my wheels wasn’t getting me anywhere, least of all, on top of the world.
Once I got over the initial fear, I found myself, as Jill said I would, really enjoying the company of children. In alignment with the teachings and wisdom I had gathered in the Dalai Lama’s Ethics For The New Millennium, it was obvious that these children understood all anyone really wanted was to be happy. From the onset I could see that the children had excellent parameters for what was fair in the context of relationship in the relationships they were having with each other. The question of were they allowed to be happy while others were seeking their own happiness seemed to be the biggest problem to solve, aside from the usual Preschool dilemmas of nap time, wet pants, and sitting in a chair while eating lunch. It became apparent to me that I had traded in higher education for what in my perspective, became an even higher education, an education in being nice, or in yogic terms, being mindful and acting from a place of nonviolence.
This May, many of those fabulous little teachers of mine graduated from High School, and Jill closed the doors to Leaping Lizards after 35 years of educating children big and small. It blows my mind to think how much time has passed and now those children are the age I was when I was so curiously learning from them. Over the last fifteen years I have continued to study the value of mindfulness in relationship, with self as well as the world around me. I hold to the knowing that being kind and treating others and ourselves well while not squashing anyone’s happiness is the most important thing any of us can do, no matter the size and age of our bodies. As the years have rolled on I have gained new tools that enable me to be present with my skillfulness in thoughts and actions of kindness, balance, and the obfuscated qualities of fairness. The practice of yoga adds tools to the toolbox as well as enhances the quality and respond-ability of these skills daily. I still like to play with toys, swing, slide, and play hide and seek. Story time is my favorite time of day and recently I am convinced everything anyone ever really needs to know can be learned from Peter Pan, hang onto your shadow and think happy thoughts.
Teaching at Leaping Lizards as well as reading Ethics For The New Millennium definitely changed the way I perceive the world around me, especially the way I perceive the people living in it, and my life has been better for the choice of dropping out of college every day since. Though Preschool may be many decades behind me, I continue daily to open the notebook to my deeper and higher learning through wonderful childlike play, and I continue to refine the greatest lesson I learned there, being kind. Through play I am often surprised and delighted to find myself enjoying the pleasure of killing dragons with my kindness and sometimes even turning them into my best friends. Rolling around on the floor in Cobra and other animal poses opens my heart and enables me to charm the venomous snakes and dangerous beasts within. Sinking into the seat of my inner warrior and exhaling helps me to steadfastly be more determined to breathe kindness, love, and humility into all of my actions through the shining and strong armor of my happy heart.
The thing about being kind and loving is that it is always rewarding. Being kind sometimes takes a little courage like going to the first day of school or making friends with someone new in the playground, and being kind especially takes courage in the face of adversity and fear. However, like Jill so elegantly said to me, “you might actually like it.” I believe being kind always beats the alternative.
If I could pass on any words of wisdom to those children now they would be to not loose your playful spirit, remember hitting hurts, it’s good to take naps, and hugs always feel good. Higher education is always important and being open to learning can be more valuable than the environment you learn in. You are still young and it is always valuable to make well informed decisions, don’t be afraid to ask for help.
I happily graduated from Preschool in May of 2001 at the ripe old age of twenty, knowing then that my desires to conquer the world were never really going to fulfill me. Rather, than and now, I graduated to just wanting to love the world, all of it, like a soft kitty cat, a great story, my dearest invisible childhood friend, or a day of absolute play.
My deepest gratitude continues to go to Jill Sanger for the giving me the opportunity to assimilate the teachings of the Dalai Lama in the classrooms of Leaping Lizards, incorporating the values of mindfulness, kindness, fairness, creative problem solving, and the positive vibrant love of play. It was my first peek into a life of an unconditioned heart.
With Love All Ways For Giving,